The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei: Better than Olympic athletes?【Part II】

In the previous article The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei: Better than Olympic Athletes? Part I, I explain the sennichi kaihogyo, or 1,000 Day Challenge, in which the Tendai Buddhist monks of Mt. Hiei, sometimes referred to as the “marathon monks,” walk the equivalent of one time around the earth–at the end of which they become living Buddhas.

In Part II, I trace the monks’ steps on the 30 km pilgrimage route, or gyoja michi, which passes through the sacred mountains and forests near the temple complex of Enryakuji. It’s a rigorous course that winds through the mountains, down into the town of Sakamoto, taking them past more than 250 spiritual places. This is the route they circumambulate for days on end over a seven-year period. For tips on the meaning behind the route, be sure to read Part I before continuing!

Rather than walking the course, I decided to run it. Running pilgrimages is a hobby of mine and I find it is a great way to combine the physical with the metaphysical. It brings joy to my runs and this fulfillment keeps the challenge. If you’re a skier, you’re always looking for more mountains. Sky divers jump at different locations. Runners look for new paths and new trails give running purpose. Leave it to your RocketNews24 running reporter to tackle the famed gyoja michi and reveal its intricacies.

I figured that running the 30-km course through the mountains would take the better part of a day. There is no map and from what I have read, Mt. Hiei can be fickle weather-wise. It has snow much of the winter and spring and there are bears. In June, when the weather was perfect, I set out with a small backpack fitted with a water bladder, some medical accoutrements and an extra pair of socks inside (for those inevitable foot and toe problems), plus an ultra light sleeping bag, just in case I got lost and had to spend the night in the forest (been there, done that!).

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Bandai to release super-mega-retro-robot made up of Doraemon and friends

Some of Japan’s most famous characters created by legendary manga-ka Fujiko F Fujio have been turned into robots by Bandai, which can then be combined to create an even more epicly-super-cool robot of retro awesomeness!

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Visiting Taiwan’s cat village, where the cats are ready for cuddles!【Photos】

So, do you like cats? Okay, that’s a silly question–of course you like cats. But how much do you like cats? Are you a one-cat-in-my-lap kind of person or are you a CATS-ON-ALL-THE-THINGS kind of person? Hopefully you’re more the latter than the former, because where we’re going today, there’s just about nothing but cats. And cat butts.

Taking a small jaunt out of Japan, we’ll be heading down to Houtong in Taiwan, a village with over 100 incredibly photogenic cats–and a major tourist destination for locals and travelers alike!

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The beautiful flowers of Hydrangea Temple: Possibly the best thing about Japan’s rainy season

As much as I look forward to summer every year, I’ll admit it can be a little hard getting excited about the early part of the season in Japan. The humidity rises, mosquitos come out in force (although we’ve got a secret trick for dealing with them), and the weather is rainy enough that going almost a week without seeing the sun isn’t that unusual.

Still, there’s at least one nice part about June in Japan, which is the blooming of the hydrangeas. The bundles of blossoms are blooming right now, and if you’re in the Tokyo area, there’s no better place to see them than at Meigetsuin Temple in Kamakura.

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Pair of Chinese men perfect the art of cosplay, steal hearts of fangirls everywhere

“There’s nothing more beautiful than these two cosplayers,” sums up the general consensus of fans around the world. But they’re not talking about a pair of women–they’re talking about two men.

Photos of a Chinese duo recreating perfect snapshot scenes from hit anime series such as Kuroko’s Basketball, Free!, Detective Conan, Reborn!, and Sailor Moon, among others, have recently been taking the internet by storm. It’s not hard to see why–their combined skill at convincingly portraying fictional characters in real life, along with their attention to detail in everything from costume to facial expression, is unparalleled. Unsurprisingly, they’ve also picked up more than a few female fans along the way, who can’t stop gushing things like “They’re so cool I’m gonna explode!” and “GODS!” in comments online.

Prepare to be dazzled by these ultimate masters of cosplay!   

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Columbia Records Japan changing name in support of national team’s game against Colombia

Things aren’t looking too good for Japan’s soccer team as it goes into its third and final game of group play at the World Cup. After a heartbreaking loss in its opener against Ivory Coast, and then a contest with Greece in which neither team’s shots could find the net, it’s do-or-die time for Japan, which is going to need quite a bit of help, and possibly luck, to advance to the Round of 16.

But all of the myriad tie-breakers Japan needs to go its way won’t mean anything if it can’t defeat group powerhouse Colombia, which currently has a 2-0 record. With all of Japan hoping for a victory over the South American nation, Team Japan is getting a little bit of extra moral support as the Japanese arm of Columbia Records is changing its name to help cheer on its local sports heroes.

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Seriously a lot of people want to marry this Paraguay soccer supporter

You know you’re pretty famous when you have your own Wikipedia page. Sure, some people just take the shortcut of writing their own Wiki and acting like they’re a big deal (I’m looking at you, weird Dungeons and Dragons extra with suspiciously specific and in-depth Wikipedia entry), but when other people write a page all about you of their own accord, you kind of know you’re a big deal.

That’s what happened with Paraguayan model and actress Larissa Riquelme when, in 2010, a photographer caught her celebrating a Paraguay team goal at the 2010 South Africa World Cup and the globe collectively paused, sucked in their breath, and shifted awkwardly in their chairs.

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Fried Godzilla with a side of Mothra: a plate of epic proportions

Since his first appearance back in 1954, Godzilla has cut his teeth on dozens of films and taken down a number of enemies in the process. When it comes to the battle of the batter, however, it seems Godzilla and his mate Mothra have walked away defeated, as there’s no shaking off a coat of oil and Japanese breadcrumbs.

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The Philippines Bureau of Immigration is so “Happy” to see you, they’re flash-mobbing

If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you’ve probably had to deal with immigration personnel of some kind. And if you’re like most people, not all of those experiences have been exactly ideal. Of course, you can’t really blame the immigration workers–after all they have stressful jobs and have to deal with grumpy travelers who’ve just stepped off long flights.

You might say that they should focus on increasing the number of immigration personnel, streamlining the immigration process, or at least giving travelers free bottles of  beer. And, in fact, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration agrees with you about the first two–but they also had another idea: Flash mobs!

Trust us; it’s a better idea than it probably sounds at first.

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Cat takes a trip on a train, just like in a Studio Ghibli movie!

Ever felt the sudden urge to go on a solo journey to some place unknown, or just to wander around aimlessly to take a break from the sights and sounds you’re accustomed to? This cat in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, seems to have caught the wanderlust bug too, and hopped on to a local train for a ride!

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Is there any explanation for this creepy doll someone found in Singapore?

Is there anything creepier than finding an inexplicable, crazy-looking doll on the street? No, probably not.

Porcelain dolls especially have that sort of old-timey, “back when science couldn’t explain things” vibe that makes them even creepier than, say, a Cabbage Patch Kid you found in your now-adult sister’s closet. So it’s not surprising that when somebody found this one sitting at the base of a tree in Singapore, the Internet took notice.

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What do this Japanese convenience store and Sierra Leone have in common?

The convenience store racket in Japan is fierce business with many shops jockeying for the top spot. Perhaps this was only in my local area, but about one or two years ago one of Japan’s biggest chains, FamilyMart, made an impressively bold Micheal Corleone-style house cleaning and began knocking off AM-PM and Sunkus outlets like modern-day Moe Greens and Emilio Barzinis and making them their own with a killer combination of great fried chicken and enthusiastic staff.

Now it’s gotten to the point that seeing FamilyMart’s green, blue and white signage is as common a sight as a traffic light when walking through the streets. It’s become so popular, in fact. that people are beginning to see links to other things – things such as the Republic of Sierra Leone.

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The many twists, turns and trapdoors of Kanazawa’s incredible Ninja Temple

Ishikawa Prefecture is a little off most tourist itineraries of Japan, since it’s located along the north coast of the main island of Honshu. If you’ve got the time to spare, though, the capital city of Kanazawa has more than enough attractions to fill a day or two.

The city is home to Kenrokuen, considered one of Japan’s top three gardens and recently voted to be one of the 30 best sightseeing spots in the country. The Omicho Market is also a great place to enjoy delicious seafood, including the shrimp that Ishikawa is known for.

Or, if neither of those pique your interest, there’s also the ninja temple, whose layout is said to be so confusing that few could make it out without a guide.

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Valley of the 9,000 dolls: One man’s incredible collection

For the parents of the world who refuse to let their children play with gender non-confirming toys, Jian Yang from Singapore should serve as a warning to what may happen if you don’t let kids be kids. The 30-something professional wasn’t allowed to have a doll growing up, but started collecting them when he got older and is now the proud owner of roughly 9,000 dolls.

While he hasn’t gone as far as some doll enthusiasts to sate their obsession, he has spent at least US$350,000 in the last 20 years on his ever-growing collection. Click below to see pictures of Yang’s enormous stash and to learn more about what drives this self-described “toy nerd” to buy this many dolls!

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4 Japanese beauty fads that Westerners just don’t understand

Beauty standards and trends differ from culture to culture, so something that’s fashionable and pretty to one woman can be completely can be bizarre, sometimes even ugly, to another half the world away. This is especially true in the case of Japanese beauty fads, which often leave Westerners thinking, “Why on earth are you doing that to yourself?!’ while Japanese fashion magazines insist that it’s the path to ultimate kawaii-ness.

Read on for four Japanese beauty fads that are all the rage among Japanese girls, but which are hard to understand from a Western perspective.

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Chinese man’s privates take 7-hour “furlough” after gruesome bike accident

While bikes are an easy, economical and environmentally friendly way to get from A to B, a 19-year-old Chinese man recently learned that there’s no such thing as a safe way to get around town.

Click below to read the story of how this unfortunate young man, after losing control of his bike and smashing into a tree, spent seven hours with his testicles separated from his body. You might want to cross your legs for this one, guys.

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15 beautiful Japanese sweets to cool you down this summer

Japanese summers are hard to bear. With high humidity levels, the energy-sapping heat has such an overwhelming effect on the body there’s even a word for summer lethargy in the Japanese lexicon: natsubate.

Luckily for us, Japan has developed a number of unique ways to fight the summer heat. One of the best ways to cool down is in the sensory pleasure of traditional Japanese sweets featuring watery wonderlands, night skies and gorgeous hues of blue. We’ve found 15 of the best summer sweets that are so amazing they’re more like edible works of art.

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Attack on Titan real escape game heads to Saitama

The Attack on Titan real escape game series, “Escape from a Certain Fortress Town,” has proven very popular — no surprise given the popularity of both its tie-in manga and the real escape game series in general. The games scheduled for Tokyo in August have already sold out. To meet this demand, SCRAP (the games’ organizer) will hold two more Attack on Titan real escape games in Seibu Dome in the Tokyo suburb of Saitama on July 5 and 6.

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Tonight vs Hotel Tonight – Did GREE just rip off one of America’s most popular hotel apps?

Smartphones and tablets improve almost faster than consumers can keep up with, and the apps designed for them change even more quickly. That means that there is a lot of opportunity for plagiarism. But surely sometimes it’s just a coincidence, right? It’s not out of the question that two developers could realistically be trying to fulfill the same need.

This week has brought us one more heated internet debate: Is hotel application Tonight by Japan’s GREE a rip-off of North American app Hotel Tonight, or are their similarities just coincidence?

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